Dec 19, 2014

Gingerbread Village

My kids read cookbooks. I find this odd, but they do it all the time, especially dessert cookbooks. They often find things in there that they want to cook, so they do, and they do it all, from making a shopping list to cleaning up the kitchen afterwards. 

Several months ago, Nate found a recipe/ directions for gingerbread houses and set his heart upon making them. Other than paying for his purchases and pointing out that some of those things we just weren't buying, I stayed out of the process. I did make a few suggestions here and there, but those were largely ignored. So this was all Kaytie and Nate's work. 

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They tried a pitched roof but couldn't figure out a way to keep it from collapsing, so they finally settled on flat roofs. 

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They spent a couple of hours working on it. And had a great time. At one point Kaytie was laughing so hard she couldn't breathe. This is going to go down in Christmas history as an Event. :)

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Daniel and Abbie came in after awhile and obligingly ate the orange m&ms, broken graham crackers, and extra red hots. 

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The ice cream cones as trees was a nice touch that transformed the whole thing from a collection of houses into a proper village. I suggested they frost them green but this didn't wind up happening.

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Using gum drops as people was Nate's idea, but it was Kaytie who added Santa and his sleigh.

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It takes a lot of hands to decorate an entire village for Christmas!

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Here are the glamor shots after it was all finished and cleaned up. 

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I'm very proud of their creativity, ingenuity, and hard work. It's cute and they had so much fun doing it! 

My favorite parts: the candy cane heart

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and the Cub Scout house with a Cub Scout in front.

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And then the monsters invaded!

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Merry Christmas from all the penguins!

They will be writing their own posts about the village and I'll add links to them when they post, so check back!

Dec 14, 2014

Five Funny Photos

Sometimes, I think I live in an alternate reality. 
Sometimes, I worry that the children are sane and I am actually the crazy one!


He puts it there like it's a handy place to keep it when he doesn't want it in his mouth.

I asked him to cut some onions...

I will stare at you with my hypnotic gaze until you give me the cracker.
Give. Me. The. Cracker.

Dec 6, 2014


I love that my boys (and girls, too, but they aren't Scouts nor are they pictured in this post) had the opportunity last Saturday and this morning to discover the joys of helping others.

We participated in Scouting for Food and the kids had so much fun putting out fliers and picking up bags of food. We appreciate all those folks who put food out for us to collect!

Dec 1, 2014


Welcome to Nine, Daniel! Our funny, smart, sweet, sensitive, cuddly, rough and tumble, noise with dirt on it, little guy!
This was the year that you shot up in height. That you gained fluency in reading. That you delved deeply into learning all you could about the world around you. You were fascinated by bugs, fell in love with the goalie position in soccer, went camping with Daddy and sang lots of annoying boy songs. This was the year you were a Bear Scout and a Webelow Scout and earned your whittling chip. The year you began to soar in math. The year you stepped into your own brand of humor and joke telling. The year you learned to dance with style. You built bottle rockets, bug houses, and snail gymnasiums. You learned to swim and found the courage to jump off the diving board into the deep end. You grew in love and compassion and learned so much about friendships. There were bumps and snags and car wrecks in your year, but you rose above all of them to find your way. You are an amazing guy, Daniel, with a big heart and a head full of brains. Have a happy, happy year as you make your way to Ten!

Nov 20, 2014

Giving Thanks Part Two

Instead of listing my thankfulness every day, this year I'm doing them in chunks. I talked about my first ten already so here are the next ten...

I really should have mentioned this one last time, because it fit better, but I got distracted by a kid or two and forgot what I was going to say, so I'll just start with it.

11. The adults who influence my kids. Uncles, aunts, grandparents, cousins, Sunday School teachers, co-op teachers, Scout leaders, art and music and Bright Lights teachers, coaches, folks at church, and parents of their friends. Thank you all so much for the love and care you show, the wisdom that you model and the knowledge you impart. None of it goes unnoticed.

12. Laughter. I was raised in a family with a strong sense of humor. The ability to laugh at myself and my circumstances has been invaluable in the rough patches of life.

13. Those rough patches. It's easier to be grateful for them after they are over. But looking back at so many of the hard times I can see how much they changed me, helped me grow, and strengthened me for the next rough patch!

14. Books. What would I do without something to read? I do not remember not knowing how to read anything I picked up and I have always devoured books.

15. That my husband and kids love books. My older two kids are voracious bookworms and my younger two, while still struggling with reading themselves both absolutely love being read to.

16. Chocolate. It would be a sad world without a little chocolate in it. And it's a sign of my great self-restraint that I waited this long to bring it up!

17. Beauty. I am not artistic nor creative, but I love looking at beautiful things: sunsets, babies, the blue Texas sky, flowers, oh, so many things that speak of a creative God who lovingly shares His glorious imagination with us.

18. Creature comforts. Too often I take things like hot water, big comfy house, heat, safety, electricity, a soft bed, clean water, and such completely for granted. They are a gift, though. A completely undeserved gift.

19. Peace. In the midst of so many storms in my life, when I turned to God, He offered me peace. Hard to describe or explain, but a priceless treasure nonetheless.

20. Health. For me, for my family. Despite many a rough start, we have four perfectly healthy kids. Because of those rough starts, I don't take that for granted. We are so blessed with sturdy bodies and quick minds!

Nov 18, 2014

Our Favorite Reviews of 2014

Each year on the Schoolhouse Crew we are asked to vote for our favorite products of the year. These votes are tabulated and compiled into the Blue Ribbon Awards

But our (as in us penguins) personal favorites aren't always represented in that list. So I thought I would poll the kids and let them vote on the products we were blessed with this year. We picked the ones we loved the most and them we ranked them, so without further ado, I give you Penguin Product Favorites:
(the links are to our reviews)





I picked my Top Ten Favorites of the Year, which turned out to be the top eleven because I just couldn't decide my favorite for tenth place. I also threw in some of my favorite pictures of the kids even though they might or might not be represented in my list...

Tied for 10th:

Purposeful Design a book of cool facts and beautiful photographs to show kids the wonders of creation. We haven't this book long, but the kids are still regularly perusing it.

Fast Track Bible Pack from Wizzy Gizmo a great pack of sturdy cards that give an overview of the New Testament books. We still use these in our Creche Conference.


Philosophy Adventure This was not, you notice, a favorite of the kids, but I love that it is teaching them to think a little more deeply and work a little harder. Kaytie and Nate are over halfway through the program.


Mango We use it to learn Spanish. Kaytie and Nate use it daily. They love it and have both asked if we can renew our subscription when it runs out.


iWitness books from Apologia These are simply awesome books. They have so much fascinating information and so many pictures of actual artifacts that the kids will often sit and look through them on their own. I love just looking through them! I learned a lot of tidbits from iWitness!


Ubersmart Math Facts Another one that the kids don't exactly "love" but that has proved beneficial to their education. They use it daily and they do love when they master a level! It is a source of competition for all four of them, and they are all gradually learning those pesky facts! Some products don't have to be fun to be great.


Visual Latin This was a repeat review product because I loved it so much the first time! And now that we have grown into it a little bit, it is working great for Kaytie. She won't admit that she enjoys it, but she decided on her own to double up and make sure she finished a lesson before the end of our term of school!


Trident phone case It's still on my phone and when my husband talked about getting me a new case, I said no. We did take the cover off the face part though (sorry, no technical electronic terms will be found here...) because it was smeared easily, was often gross, and sometimes kept the touch screen from working correctly. 


ARTistic Pursuits I love this curriculum! Especially at the middle school level. I love how much she learned and that she could do it all independently! And I'm not the only one that loves it... since she finished both of the ones we have, Kaytie keeps asking if we can get the third book.


Math Wrap Ups from Learning Wrap Ups Math facts memorization that is FUN! What's not to love? Every morning the kids grab a Wrap Up, I set a timer, and they race to clock to beat another level. If they can do the Wrap Up correctly in 30 seconds or less then they get to move on. A lot of competing here, with themselves and each other. This is something they never let me forget to do each day!


Fix It! Grammar It's not in their top ten, but this is a wonderful curriculum! I love IEW and I have loved all the products of theirs I've used! Fix It! has been the best grammar we have ever used and, believe me, we have used a lot. The built-in review of learned concepts is perfect for the way my kids learn and it only takes us a few minutes each day. I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that Fix It! is not only my top choice for this year, but it is in the top three of all time. 


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